App supports newly diagnosed IRD patients to manage their symptoms better

  • 28th February 2023

Bristol Bones and Joints (BBJ) HIT has developed an app to help people newly diagnosed with an inflammatory rheumatic disease (IRD) learn about their condition and manage the effects it has on their lives.

The Living With Arthritis app has been developed with clinicians from North Bristol NHS Trust and University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, researchers from UWE Bristol, patient groups and app developer Living With. The app was funded by NHS Charities Together.

IRDs affect people’s bones and joints and include conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, among others.  Around 750,000 people in the UK are affected by an IRD. Symptoms of IRDs include pain and fatigue, which limit people’s ability to work, exercise and socialise. The impact of these symptoms can include low mood, worry and anxiety.

As a long-term condition, there is evidence that if patients feel confident about managing their IRD,  they might need to use fewer healthcare resources. There is also evidence that providing people with more information and signposting to resources and sources of support when they are diagnosed, means they might experience less psychological and emotional distress and feel more able to cope and in control.

The Living With Arthritis app provides information on different IRDs, including treatment options, guidance on living well and tools for managing fatigue. It includes resources to support patients with their physical, emotional and practical needs, and signposts to local and national resources including Versus Arthritis.

A patient with IRD who is using the Living With Arthritis app will have the access to the same healthcare as other patients and will still be able to contact their clinical team in the same way. However, the information in the app might answer some of their questions and mean that they call the nurse helpline or contact their GP less often.

Patients are being encouraged to request access to the app from their hospital consultant at Southmead, Weston or the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

Dr Emma Dures is a BBJ HIT co-director and Associate Professor in Rheumatology and Self-Management at the Centre for Health and Clinical Research, UWE Bristol, co-located in University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust. She said:

“We’re pleased that the Living With Arthritis app is now available for patients in the region, because we know that if people are supported to self-manage their symptoms and the impact of their condition at the outset, it can be helpful for years to come.”

“I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in compiling information and reviewing the app, particularly our patient partners whose experience has been invaluable.”

Julie, one of the patients who took part in focus groups to help develop the app, said:

“I have been using the Living With app and found it really helpful and informative. It provides me with lots of good clear advice and information not only about my inflammatory condition but also how to navigate the knock-on effects the condition has on the rest of my life. This easy-to-use app has become my go to for reliable information from anything from drug side effects to wellbeing, household adaptions to travel support. I use it regularly and will definitely go on using it in the future.”